Tesla Cold Weather Travel: Travel Better with Safety Tips from Tesla and an RN

Romance mode, Courtesy Tesla Asia, Tesla, Inc.

The holidays are a beautiful time for getting together with family and traveling, and the cold weather can be challenging. In this article, I’ll share suggestions that will help make traveling a pleasure and safer.  Should you encounter a winter storm, these tips will be helpful. 

  • Preparing for cold weather driving
  • Day of trip
  • On the road (one added suggestion for Tesla)
  • Upon arrival to your destination 

Preparing for Cold Weather Driving

Install winter tires and keep them inflated to specifications and consider Tesla aero wheel covers for your vehicle, they help maximize range. You can change the wheel configuration in the service section of the Tesla touchscreen.

Top off windshield washer fluid using fluid rated for cold weather. Tesla says, “In temperatures below 4° C (39.2 °F), use a washer fluid with antifreeze. In cold weather, using a washer fluid without antifreeze can impair visibility through the windshield.”  Tesla reminds us to be cautious,  “Windshield washer fluid can irritate eyes and skin.”  Model Y Owner’s Manual Courtesy Tesla

Your phone is the key to your car so make sure your phone is well-charged. always carry your Tesla key card with you.

Tesla message “Tap key card and press brake to drive” credit the author
Tesla message “Tap key card and press brake to drive” credit the author

I’m sharing this small list of items to store in your frunk for snow and emergencies: Flashlight, water, blankets, extra jackets, snacks, portable shovel, snow, brush for cleaning snow off the car, and gloves.  I also recommend a tire air pump, roadside hazard kit, your 110-car charger, and adapters in the front trunk.  

The Nurse in me suggests creating a first aid kit for your glove box which should be a small ziplock bag with a few Tylenol capsules, gauze pads, medical tape, and medium and large band-aids. If you are traveling through unpopulated areas, consider learning basic lifesaving CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.  Watching this 2-minute CPR youtube video could save your loved one’s life. 

Day of Trip

Tesla recommends you pre-condition your vehicle and schedule your departure in the Tesla App. Tesla created a pleasant experience so that if you know what time you plan to depart, your vehicle (and the battery pack) will be warm and ready to go.  If your vehicle is outside in the cold or ice, the good thing about this is that preconditioning will melt the ice off the car, and then you can brush the ice off by hand.

Below are Tesla’s best practices for what to do before your cold-weather trip.  In the rare event, your door handle is frozen, try tapping the center of the door handle with the side of your closed fist to break the ice free.

Winter Driving Tips Courtesy Tesla

An easier way to open the door to your Tesla (if it is frozen) is the open it using the Tesla App.  Tesla created this feature in November 2022 just in time for the cold weather.  

Recent Tesla App Update, credit the author
Recent Tesla App Update, credit the author

I recommend customizing the controls on your app for your trip’s needs.  Here I’ve customized Model Y controls on the App to show Defrost Car, Trunk, Unlatch Door, and Front in preparation for a trip.

Customize controls on the Tesla App. credit the author
Customize controls on the Tesla App. credit the author

On The Road

Tesla recommends driving in “Chill Mode” to conserve energy on the road. 

Using seat heaters can also save energy, “Heating the cabin takes a significant amount of energy that can then no longer be used for driving range.  If possible, lower the cabin temperature setting and use seat heaters for added warmth.”   Winter Driving Tips Courtesy Tesla

A small blue snowflake icon will appear on your car‘s touchscreen if the battery is too cold to access all of its stored energy. This is just a reminder that you temporarily have limited regenerative braking and limited battery power. The snowflake will melt when your battery warms.

Cold weather best practices. Model 3 Owners’ Guide Courtesy Tesla.
Cold weather best practices. Model 3 Owners’ Guide Courtesy Tesla.

Tesla advises, “Vehicle deceleration due to regenerative braking may vary depending on the current state of the Battery. For example, regenerative braking may be limited if the Battery is cold or is already fully charged.

To experience the same amount of deceleration whenever you release the accelerator pedal, regardless of the state of the Battery, you can choose to have the regular braking system automatically engage whenever regenerative braking is limited. Touch Controls > Pedals & Steering > Apply Brakes When Regenerative Braking is Limited. Tesla owner Dan Burkland explains, “this feature is a great way for people to drive the vehicle the same even when it’s super cold and regenerative braking is limited.”

Regenerative Braking in the Cold
Regenerative Braking in the Cold. Courtesy Tesla Model Y Users Guide

On the freeway, you may use Autopilot, and be prepared to take over if there is reduced visibility. I always recommend that people get familiar with Autopilot and its features.  When your car has a software update, it often means an improvement in Autopilot is on the way.  The image below from Model Y explains the importance of always being 100% alert when you use Autosteer (Beta).

Tesla Autosteer (Beta) Mode, credit the author
Tesla Autosteer (Beta) Mode, credit the author

I’m sharing a safety suggestion here for Tesla, made by numerous Tesla owners and summed up nicely by an owner in Dallas, Texas, “Will be cool when they update the navigation with real-time weather data. Avoid or react to dangerous freezes, blizzards, and cold. (And hail, tornadoes, etc).”

EMERGENCIES ON THE ROAD: Be prepared are ready to triage your emergency and either call 911, request help from Tesla using the App, or call Tesla Roadside Assistance at Toll Free: 877 798 3752. Tesla Roadside Assistance is committed to providing you with immediate roadside services, 24/7 365 days a year. See https://www.tesla.com/support/roadside-assistance

Upon Arrival

Park in reverse so that it will be much easier for you to drive onto a snow-covered road. 

If you’re expecting snow or ice buildup, turn on Wiper Service Mode.

One Tesla owner explains Wiper Service Mode, “Tesla’s (wipers) don’t flip up, but I have put them in “Wiper Service Mode” which brings them above the baseline and outs them where the defroster can heat them.  There are wiper heating elements down below on cold weather package Teslas, but it’s not that effect I find in severe cold, especially once you’re moving and the wind chill keeps them frozen.”  Teslavangelist 

Tesla Wiper Service Mode credit the author
Tesla Wiper Service Mode credit the author

Keep your Tesla plugged in as often as possible.  Tesla says that this will help your battery stay warm by drawing a very small amount of power from the wall. Winter Driving Tips Courtesy Tesla

What should you do if you get a warning that your charge port is not latched in the App due to the cold? Keep it latched. Tesla owner Gary Mark, shares that, according to Tesla support, this feature was a recent software change to prevent the latch freezing closed inside port on some models. Once the charger head is warm, the latch will engage itself.

Charge your Tesla overnight up to 100% instead of the usual 80-90%.  Your Tesla will use more energy to combat the cold weather and the battery will discharge faster.


I hope you have a wonderful holiday trip! Here’s a brief overview of my recommendations, many based on what Tesla also recommends. 

  • Preparing for a cold weather trip is done some days prior to traveling and I recommend winter tires, antifreeze washer fluid, packing emergency supplies, and being familiar with lifesaving CPR.
  • Day of the trip: Pre-condition and schedule your departure in the Tesla App.  Also, customize the App to make use of its many features.
  • On the road: Try Autopilot with Chill mode! Increase range by lowering cabin temp, using snuggly blankets and seat heaters. (I love the heated steering wheel too!) Emergencies can happen, so 911 or activate Tesla Roadside Service ASAP.
  • Upon arrival at destination:  Ideally you’ll back into your designated spot, plug in your Tesla, and set your wipers in service position.  

Do you love What’s Up Tesla? Here’s 2 other great reads…

Texas’ ERCOT approved an Aggregated Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Pilot Project. What challenges lie ahead? You know how to keep warm in your Tesla, now read about how we can all stay warm in our homes and keep the lights on in Texas and beyond!

4 Families from the Southern USA tell what they love most about their Tesla Do you know someone who really wants a Tesla for Christmas but their better half is skeptical? This article shares good practical reasons why people love Teslas.

Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy CVSherman.
Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy CVSherman.

Article by Gail Alfar, creator of What’s Up Tesla. Yes, I am a Registered Nurse. My passion is to spread enthusiasm for the transition to sustainable energy. All Rights Reserved. November 20, 2022. Updated on November 22, 2022. Special thanks to Gary Mark and Dan Burkland for consultation on this article. Header image of Romance Mode is courtesy of Tesla, Inc. Tesla Asia.


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